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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

376                 5TA* Legacy to Modern Egypt
definite as the caste system of India and farther east, and
to it.1
That system once gravitated round the king and the gods.
The service of the court and temples required priests, sculptors,
linen-workers, washermen, cobblers, butchers, bakers, car-
penters, fly-whisk bearers, a whole panoply of occupations. We
can see the divine counterpart of that organization officiating
round the god in the bas-reliefs; for 'the divine court is organ-
ized on the model of the terrestrial', or rather the two are one,
since the king of Egypt is king of the gods. There is Ptah, the
artificer; Khnum, the potter; Thoth, the scribe; Hathor, the
nurse; Heket, the midwife; Anubis, the embalmer, each playing
his part in the royal ritual.
With the breakdown of the old religion these courts dis-
persed, the craftsmen were set adrift. They no longer revolve
round king, feudal lord, or temple. Having lost its old mean-
ing, the old organization has also lost its fullness: in a community
struggling for bare existence there is no room for painters,
sculptors, superintendents of stables, and such luxuries; the
occupations have been pared down to the minimum require-
ments of the village. It is no longer a monarchic theory that
prescribes the occupations, but the necessities of existence and
of a simplified democratic religion.
The barber, for instance, is a village dignitary, but his status
is not defined, as it is in India, by a theory of society. He is
hereditary in practice, but not by rule; he is neither appointed
nor paid by a lord or by the community jointly, but establishes
himself where there is work and is paid by individuals a fee
fixed by custom. However much his status may have changed,
his purpose has changed but little: he is there because the
modern peasant, like the ancient, has to have his head shaved
and be circumcised. As for the reason why, it has got lost long
1 Hocart, Kings and Councillors^ chap, is and Les Castes^ Musee Guimet,
Paris, in the press.